Wounded but not defeated: Ali In The UK

By Ziggy Shah - When Larry Holmes boxed and defeated Muhammad Ali, I was only six years old. An Infant, who was too young to show emotion or express true feelings. But, why then, despite my mother comforting me, did I shed tears all night? Why then did I lock myself away and refuse to eat for two days? The answer was simple, Muhammad Ali, my idol, the man who was invincible, had been beat. It mattered not that Ali was way past his prime, nor did it matter to me that he was already riddled with Parkinson’s syndrome. It was all irrelevant, he was unstoppable, and so why then was he defeated..

But now, as a man, I look back at what this great man has achieved, and I feel proud. He changed the course of history, both in the social and sporting domain. He was the first man to reclaim the throne of Heavyweight Champion, a record three times. When he spoke, people listened, adored and began to realise that he was not just a sportsman but a diplomat also. He was brave enough to stand up against the biggest establishment of them all and say, “No I ain’t going to Vietnam to kill another innocent race’. Even in exile he stood tall and remained adamant that he was right and all others were wrong. And even today, he is still fighting, but this time the opponent is the toughest he has ever faced, it is an opponent that has already left him virtually confined to a wheel chair, but the great man refuses to give up and is willing and able to stand up and fight.

This was seen recently in Manchester when he got up out of his wheel chair and walked to greet his fans in Manchester and Ireland. It is the same fighting spirit that saw him ‘shake up the world’ back in 1964, when he beat Sonny Liston. The body and physical appearance may have changed but the mental toughness to ‘never say die’ lives on. It matters not that he does not speak or move like he did back in 1974, when despite all odds, he beat George Foreman in Zaire. It also matters not, that he trembles uncontrollably by the Parkinson’s syndrome that is slowly paralyzing him, because Ali’s presence and smile alone speaks a million words, and constantly reminds generations, that believe in yourself and anything is possible.

His long time trainer, Angelo Dundee, once famously said, “You can throw Ali off a plane with a parachute anywhere in the world, and wherever he landed he would be greeted with open arms.” Luckily for us, Ali landed in the UK, and as always he was greeted with not just open arms, but open hearts.

Article posted on 02.09.2009

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